Moving to France: sorting what to take – #6

The ‘Moving to France’ mini-series continues.

Here you can read the first five episodes.

1. Taking the plunge #1
2. The first-month #2
3. Buying a car #3
4. L’Assurance Maladie #4
5. How to let go #5
6. Sorting what to take #6

But, before ‘the sorting’ came a bit of panic I hadn’t expected!

Where and when had I accumulated so much stuff?

I did some research on the best methods for decluttering and settled on two: KonMari and Swedish Death Cleaning. 

I made a strong cup of coffee, and dove in.  

What is the KonMari method?

The KonMari Method™ encourages tidying by category – not by location – beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items. Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go.

According to

What I like about this method is that there is a system to it. I began in the closet and sorted the clothing that was too big, too small, too corporate, too casual, etc.

This was the easy part.

Almost everything was in the ‘Donate’ pile and what was left got packed.

Ditto for books and papers.

For the containers of sentimental items, I needed a little more help.

A more drastic method, given the mountains of containers… Enter Swedish Death Cleansing.

What is Swedish Death Cleaning?

I was immediately intrigued when I saw articles and YouTube videos with this title popping on my various feeds. The basic premise is that we start, in our 50s or so, to go through all of our belongings and keep just the essentials. This is not only a way to organize, but it alleviates the need for someone else to be burdened with this task in our eventual demise. Naturally, our physical space will look and feel less cluttered, thereby reducing stress.

But how to do it exactly?

There seem to be some similarities between the KonMari method and Swedish Death Cleansing in that one can start with the closet, move on to furniture, and make one’s way through the house, keeping only what we truly need.

I had read that one can also think about the things that someone would find one day after our passing – journals for example – and we ask ourselves if there is anything embarrassing or hurtful to someone else inside. If so, we let go of that item. I feel this is less about keeping what brings joy than discarding what is not absolutely essential. In terms of sentimental items, I used this method because I simply cannot bring large containers of photos, baby blankets, my first teddy bear, and so on.

How I did ‘the sorting’?


I sat, cross-legged, on the floor, and began with the first box of photos.

Looking at the faces of loved ones, many of who have passed on, was both beautiful and rather sad.

How fast time flies! Seeing a photo of my son, at 4 years old, dressed as a juice box brought a huge smile to my face. A photo of my grandmother, long passed, holding her first great-grandchild brought a tear to my eye. These are the photos I will keep forever. A digital copy would be more practical, but it is the hard copy, the one I can pick up out of the one box of photos that I will bring (for the moment) that I will keep.


My graduation caps from high school and college go in the Trash bin. I will instead keep my diploma and Bachelor’s Degree. I find a little box filled with matchbooks that I collected at various restaurants in Japan in 1988. Do they even make matchbook covers like this anymore? I do not know. I keep them in my hands for a few moments, think back on the summer I spent there with my dear friend, who has also passed, then gently toss them.


I was a teacher for many, many years. As you can imagine, I was gifted a variety of treasures from my students – little handwritten notes, various cards, and souvenirs from trips they took. These were hard to part with. Most of these students are now married with their own children, and I wonder if they remember me as I do them. As with the other memorabilia, I held them in my hands and then let them go.


For as long as I can remember I’ve collected postcards from my travels. I figured that if my photos did not turn out well, the postcards would allow me to have visual reminders of where I went. I have some from Berlin just after the wall fell. Some from Santorini, Greece where I spent a wonderful few days with friends I had met during my study abroad. I have many, many postcards from museums, particularly in France. Over the years I had carried these mementos with me, hauled them, with a significant number of books, up flights of stairs, and placed them in closets. Now, it is the realization that I would be lugging these items in suitcases through airports and train stations that give me pause.

Sorting & decluttering: How did this all end?

Things to leave:

Moving to France: sorting what to take - #6
To leave: Pitcher and bowls purchased in France (I can rebuy here)

To take:

In the end, I carried one shoebox of photos and postcards with me.

There are two small plastic containers of photos and such left at my mother’s. The rest have been gently discarded.

We keep what is precious to us. For me, it was also deciding what I want from my old life to be carried into the new. In the end, that which brings me joy stays. And, not everything can come.

What I have realized is that letting go is not only about the physical.

Letting go of ideas

It is letting go of ideas too – Ideas of France (hint: it is not easy. Daily life is different than tourist life.) 

Let go of the idea that it will be as you thought (some days it is worse, but most days it is better than you dreamed). It is both scary and incredibly freeing to take the leap and pursue your dreams. Likewise, it is challenging and liberating to part with things that we have carried – physically and mentally – for a very long time.

When sorting what to takedo you use a particular decluttering method? If so, which do you prefer and why? Is there something that you would have a hard time letting go of? Have you recently gone through a major declutter? What did you learn from it?

Additional Information and Links:
1. Kon Mari & the Kon Mari Method
2. Good HouseKeeping – what is the Kon Mari method
3. Swedish Death Cleaning – via The Spruce
4. 10 Things to know about Swedish Death Cleaning via Family handyman

Image credits:
All images copyright Amy Gruber

About the Contributor

Amy Gruber

I was first introduced to France as a child during a family trip abroad. I have since studied in Paris, traveled throughout the country, and I fell in love with France and the French.  Brittany is where I call home part of the year. Read more on my blog and Instagram @agruber17.

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One Comment

  1. Catherine Berry Aug 7, 2022 at 9:30 AM - Reply

    You’ve done well, Amy. I’m sure that your thoughts and processes will resonate with those who have done the same thing or help those who are in the planning phase of their move to France. Bonne continuation.

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